(UPDATED August 2016) There is something magical about sandbars, their sands disappearing under the sea for hours then emerging with the rise of tides. Their shapes are never the same, fashioned every minute by the wind and waves. Walking along a strip of sandbar has always been a profound and spiritual experience for me – suddenly, there are two endless seas, which finally become one when I reach the tip of these sands.
One sandbar in the sea is magic enough, but two glorious sandbars in one island is almost a miracle. And this is exactly what makes Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte, unique.
(UPDATE: While some of Kalanggaman’s facilities were destroyed during Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), what makes the island beautiful – its sandbars and clear waters – remain).
“Kalanggaman” comes from the root word langgam, which means “bird” in Cebuano, though I was surprised to find a dolphin on the island’s welcome sign. The island caretaker told me that fisherfolk often spot dolphins in the waters surrounding Kalanggaman.
I found the character of Kalanggaman’s two sandbars quite distinct when I explored the island. One side of the island abounds with coconut trees fringed with creamy white sands tapering off to a long sandbar. During my weekend visit, I saw people walking along the shore and splashing in the waters. Others pedaled through the sea on water bikes, and some, like me, walked to the very tip of the sandbar. This part of the island also had the cottages and the island caretakers’ hut.
The landscape on the other side of Kalanggaman, meanwhile, is more rugged and untamed. Gray rocks line the white shores. Coconut and wild pandan trees alike thrive. And, I had to walk for about ten minutes to reach the other sandbar. Amid the quiet on this side of Kalanggaman, I could clearly hear my own thoughts.
On the way to the sandbar, I found a bamboo chapel, very fitting to the serene atmosphere (Sadly, this had already been damaged by Yolanda). I also walked past the island’s few solar-powered houses, basic accommodations for guests who would like to spend the night (Now only facilities for caretakers and a few other island dwellers remain).
And, when I finally saw the sandbar, it was like discovering my own secret beach. I was the only person alive in this paradise. I walked barefoot to the very tip and watched the waves kiss. From there, I looked back at the island and noted that the view was similar from the tip of the other sandbar. But, in this place, the only sound I could hear was the gently lapping waves and the squawking gulls as they briefly rest on the sandbar.
But while I had my glimpse of paradise here, I believe that everyone can easily have either their own quiet time or fun activity in this island of around eight hectares. I am also hopeful that the island will be kept in its pristine state as I was able to talk to one of the caretakers, who manages and cleans up Kalanggaman.
As I said goodbye to Kalanggaman’s white sandbars and clear waters, I did not realize the boat ride back still had a promising treat. Aside from seeing flying fish leaping out of the water, as I did on the way to the island, this time, I saw one of the dolphins the island caretaker mentioned. It jumped from the water three times, before disappearing into the blue water. It was the perfect ending to a magical day.
For questions and assistance, contact Palompon local government/tourism office: Mobile – (63917) 3037269 | Landline – (6353) 5559010 | Facebook page: Kalanggaman Booking Schedule
Book ahead with them as they are observing a maximum number of visitors on the island per day to help preserve its beauty.
How to get there: Take a flight to Tacloban. If coming from Cebu, you can also take a passenger boat to Ormoc. From Tacloban’s or Ormoc’s van terminals, ride a van bound for Palompon. Fare is less than P200 and travel time is 3 hours or less if coming from Tacloban, and 1 1/2 hour if coming from Ormoc. From Palompon terminal, the pier and the tourism office are less than a five-minute walk away. Boat to Kalanggaman takes one hour or less.
Pumpboat rental: Php 3,000 for 15 people or less | Php 3,500 for 25 pax | Php 4,000 for 30 pax (NOTE: If you are traveling alone, like I did, ask the tourism office to put you together with a group. I was lucky to join a friendly family who I later ate lunch and explored a part of the island with.)
Island conservation fee: Php 150 (day rate) | Php 225 (overnight) Rates are lower for students and senior citizens, but higher for foreigners (starts. at P500) Best to check with Palompon Tourism Office.
Other rates: Cottage rental – Php 250 | Kayak – Php 150/hour | Water bike – Php 200 for bike good for one person, Php 250 for two
Where to stay: There are no accommodations in Kalanggaman. You can bring a tent or rent one for Php 250 (estimated to be good for four people).
Food: Bottled water, chips and other pre-packed food are sold in the island. Sometimes fresh catch are sold by fisherfolk, but this is not guaranteed. Better to bring your own lunch to the island.